Timeline for SNP leadership race announced – with nominations to close on 24 February | Politics News

The SNP’s national executive committee has agreed a timetable for members to elect a new leader following Nicola Sturgeon’s shock resignation.

Nominations to become Ms Sturgeon’s successor opened at 11.59pm yesterday evening and will close at midday on Friday 24 February.

Once nominations have closed, the ballot will then open at midday on 13 March and close at midday on 27 March.

The party said its national secretary will make the results of the contest public as soon as the result has been determined and after the candidates have been advised.

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Ms Sturgeon will stay in place until her successor is chosen.

The party planned to hold a meeting on March 19 to discuss the path towards an independence vote, with Nicola Sturgeon backing the use of the next general election as a de facto referendum.

But Lorna Finn, the SNP’s national secretary, said: “It would be wrong to have a newly elected leader tied to a key decision on how we deliver democracy in Scotland in the face of continued Westminster intransigence.

“Therefore, the party’s special democracy conference, previously planned for Sunday March 19, is postponed. SNP Members – the lifeblood of this party and movement – will be updated in due course on details of a rearranged event once the new party leader is in place.”

The decision on the leadership campaign comes after a national executive committee meeting of the party on Thursday.

No individual is yet to have officially thrown their hat into the ring to become Ms Sturgeon’s successor.

The SNP’s newly elected Westminster leader Stephen Flynn, who replaced Ian Blackford following his resignation in December, ruled himself out of the contest when speaking to Sky News.

As an MP and not a member of the Scottish Parliament (MSP), Mr Flynn could currently only replace Ms Sturgeon as SNP leader – and not as Scotland’s first minister.

He told Kay Burley on Thursday: “I’ll indeed not be standing. Of course the next leader of the Scottish National Party needs to have the ability to be first minister – no MP has the ability to be first minister for obvious reasons that we are located in London and not Edinburgh.”

Read more: Who will replace Sturgeon as next SNP leader?

SNP MP Joanna Cherry said on Thursday evening that she will not be standing in the contest.

The MP said in her column in The National newspaper: “Our next leader must be able to become first minister and so she must come from within the current Holyrood contingent and it should be someone with at least some ministerial experience.

“I stand ready to give my support to the candidate who I believe is best placed to break with the past and to put together a team to deliver the root and branch change needed.”

The Daily Record newspaper reported that Scottish Health Secretary Humza Yousaf is expected to enter the race to become the SNP leader.

However Sky News understands Mr Yousaf, 37, who has held a number of ministerial positions in the Scottish Government since 2012, is still debating whether to run.

Mr Yousaf is the first non-white and first Muslim cabinet minister in the Scottish government.

Other potential candidates who could throw their hats into the ring include Constitution Secretary Angus Robertson, Finance Secretary Kate Forbes, and Deputy First Minister John Swinney, Deputy Leader of the SNP Keith Brown.

Mr Swinney briefly served as SNP leader in the early 2000s after Alex Salmond quit as head of the party, but later resigned.

Ms Sturgeon announced her resignation during a press conference in Edinburgh at her official residence, Bute House, on Wednesday.

The 52-year-old said it had been “the very best job in the world” but that she believed part of “serving well would be to know almost instinctively when the time is right” to step down.

In her resignation speech, Ms Sturgeon said her party has an “array of talent” ready to follow her.

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